Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

What’s Going On?


Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some loving’ here today

-Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?, 1971

In 1971, singer Marvin Gaye raised hackles when he tried to make sense of the madness of the Vietnam War by asking, “What’s Going On?” The song, told from the perspective of a returning Vietnam veteran, was inspired by Gaye’s brother who had recently returned from that disastrous war.

Gaye would be asking the same question if he were alive today. Nearly 3,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. A brutal civil war continues to escalate, aggravated by intense opposition to the U.S. occupation. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, General John Abazaid – commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East who just resigned – and the vast majority of the American people oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq. Yet George W. Bush is planning to do just that.

Even staunch Republicans like MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough, who supported the war and voted twice for Bush, is asking what’s going on. On his December 20 show, Scarborough was appalled by Bush’s statement, “I encourage you all to go shopping more.” MSNBC analyst Mike Barnacle noted that “this President is isolated, delusional, and stubborn.” Bush’s “delusion,” according to Barnacle, is going to result in the deaths and carnage of our troops and people throughout the Middle East. “I don’t think [Bush] knows what he’s saying . . . He is totally isolated from reality,” Barnacle added. “The deaths of American soldiers now verges on the criminal.”

So what is going on? Former Nixon counsel John Dean recently told a San Diego audience he doesn’t think Bush is in charge – Cheney is running the government. “One of Dick Cheney’s geniuses is that he lets Dubya wake up every morning and think he’s President,” Dean noted. Cheney has set up his own National Security Council in the Vice President’s office, according to Dean. Decisions about budgets, personnel, etc., never get to the Oval Office. Cheney decides the important matters before they ever reach Bush’s desk, Dean said.

The report of the Iraq Study Group was not prepared by a bunch of radicals. It even recommended privatizing Iraq’s oil. But the group of 10 saw that more troops and shunning Iran and Syria is not the answer. What did Bush do? He dismissed the ISG report out of hand in favor of Cheney’s agenda.

Why would Dick Cheney and the neocons who convinced Bush to start this war decide to pull out now? They created the war to achieve their imperial dream of privatizing Iraqi oilfields and building permanent U.S. military bases nearby to protect them. They are willing to sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and the Iraqi people in pursuit of their dream.

Cheney is undoubtedly telling the evangelical Dubya to hang in there, God is testing him. Remember Bush said he consulted with his heavenly father before starting the war. If Bush thinks God told him to start this war, what will it take to make him stop?

And it could get worse. Cheney-Bush has sent our battleships to the Persian Gulf to “warn” Iran that we mean business. And the White House blacked out parts of a New York Times op-ed on negotiating with Iran written by two former U.S. government advisors. This means, in all likelihood, that Cheney has decided it’s time to pick off the next member of the Axis of Evil. They’re following the same strategy they used on the way to Iraq: convince the American people that Iran is building weapons of mass destruction, notwithstanding overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Attacking Iran would cause a disaster of epic proportions.

Now that the Democrats are taking over the reins in Washington, we have a golden opportunity to set things right. But incoming Senate majority leader Harry Reid has decided to align himself with the 12 percent of Americans who support sending more troops to Iraq.

It seems more likely the Republicans, not the Democrats, will try to derail the Cheney-Bush war express. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore) declared last week on the Senate floor: “I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore.”

Ultimately, it is up to the American people to step up to the plate and stop this war. It’s fine to tell the pollsters we want our troops out of Iraq. But that’s not doing the trick. The Vietnam War ended after thousands of people marched in the streets. We may not have the draft to get the college kids off their duffs. But we do have our consciences. And that should be enough.

MARJORIE COHN is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her book, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, will be published next spring by PoliPointPress.



Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She writes, speaks and does media about human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at @marjoriecohn.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
Lara Gardner
Why I’m Not Voting
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017